On Thursday, officials at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the addition of the monarch butterfly to their red list as an endangered species. The listing comes after years of population decline for the spectacular North American butterfly.

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“It’s just a devastating decline,” said Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University who was not involved in the listing, reported by USA Today. “This is one of the most recognizable butterflies in the world.”

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With the listing, experts hope that policymakers can put in place strict measures to protect the few remaining butterflies and help them grow in numbers. According to IUCN estimates, monarch butterflies in the U.S. have declined by 22% to 72% in the past decade. The percentage decline depends on the action method used. 

“What we’re worried about is the rate of decline,” said Nick Haddad, a conservation biologist at Michigan State University. “It’s very easy to imagine how very quickly this butterfly could become even more imperiled.”

Millions of monarch butterflies put up a spectacular show every year when they migrate from the mountains of Central Mexico to the north. Their migration is the longest known by scientists of any insect species. Along their migration path, they breed multiple generations of other beautiful butterflies. The offspring that make the journey to the north start the return journey back to Mexico at the end of summer.

Besides the spectacular group that migrates from Mexico to Southern Canada, there is a small group that spends its winters on the coast of California. Then, they spread to other states in the west of the Rocky Mountains in summer. This group has seen an even bigger drop in population that the eastern monarchs. 

The listing of the monarch butterfly might be instrumental in helping their numbers bounce back. Listing vulnerable species such as the European bison has seen their population bounce back due to protection measures put in place by authorities. We can only hope the same for these monarch butterflies.

Via USA Today

Lead image via Pexels